Hands off our hearing aids!

28 07 2014

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North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced proposals to withdraw the provision of NHS-funded hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate age-related hearing loss!

This would be devastating for people with hearing loss, leaving thousands of local residents unable to communicate in their day-to-day lives. If the cuts go ahead in North Staffordshire, who will be next? We could be looking at millions of people who struggle to hear being denied NHS hearing aids.

We’re calling on anyone who values free NHS hearing aids to join us in the fight to stop these changes!

Link to cause – Hands off our hearing aids!





Access

25 06 2011

Arlene Romoff speaks of her experience of hearing loss, advocacy, and her bilateral cochlear implants. The interviewer is also deaf, and is using an FM system to hear Arlene. The interview is in six parts.

You can hop over to Arlene’s blog and buy her book ‘Listening Closely – A Journey to Bilateral Hearing’ from Amazon.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6





The Mirror Crack’d

7 01 2010

One of my concerns about the cochlear implant, and I suspect quite a common one for CI newbies, is the size of the thing. It looks quite big. It’s quite a collection of objects to have on the back of your head and looks very conspicuous when you have no or little hair – I’ve seen quite a few young men on the London underground with a CI stuck to their head. I’ve always thought it looks quite futuristic, like something out of a modern-day Star Trek. The CI comes in two parts. This is the part that sits on the ear and the round part is a magnet, which sits on the head behind the ear;

This is the internal part of the CI. The wires are electrodes which are threaded into the cochlea. The round part is the magnet which connects through the skin to the external magnet.

Wouldn’t it be great if the external part was designed to look like a telephone or something humorous. Listen up, CI companies! Cochlear now have a white CI, the Nucleus 5, and it looks gorgeous. Unfortunately it still looks like a hearing aid and I don’t like people’s reactions to them. Interesting comments from CI users have been that observers are interested, they think it’s some sort of bluetooth device, and this leads to useful conversations, educational and sometimes directly beneficial to the observer … who may happen to be deaf but has not seen a CI or heard of one.

Hearwear: The Future of Hearing was an exhibition held at the V&A London in 2006. The RNID had commissioned 15 product designers to come up with innovative hearing products. The results were prototypes and not available on the market in 2006 …. that was 4 years ago …. I wonder what is happening? Alloy were seeking manufacturers in 2005 for its SoundSpace product. ReSound have a new aid design called Be. I contacted both companies to get an update on hearing aid design. No replies were forthcoming.

You might be interested to read about the Carina on Steve’s blog Deafness and hearing aids. This is a new, fully implantable CI. Looking at this CI, it appears to be for people with a moderate to severe hearing loss, rather than profound. Perhaps in ten years time, they will have improved the technology enough to offer this to profoundly deaf recipients. There are also different kinds of implants: auditory, penetrating, and hybrid. Perhaps there may be developments there.

Back to the current day. It is possible to purchase ‘Skinits‘, customised plastic film to stick on your CI and ring the changes with your outfit or occasion. Cool. Some CIs come with different casing colours that you can swap around. You can also purchase Tube Riders to decorate hearing aids or implants. You can even get a bluetooth headset to work with your CI.

At my CI consultation, I had been told all CIs are the same. I had initially jumped for Cochlear’s Nucleus 5 because it was the newest and flashiest of the lot. I assumed newest was best. But when they said the performance of all brands was the same, alarm bells rang in my head. I did some research and spoke to a number of people, some of whom were electrical engineers. The results are posted on my Cochlear Implants blog page. If you’re considering a cochlear implant, go check this information out! It’s important to know about CI performance – because your surgeon won’t tell you this – surgeons are not experts on CIs. So… based on this new information, I have now finally chosen my preferred brand of CI. I chose Advanced Bionics for their superior performance and better future hardware and software prospects. Hello AB fans, are you out there?





Living life out loud

30 12 2009

I came across Bonnie Cherry’s story and it brought a tear to my eye. Bonnie lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She had a brain tumour and the removal of this meant she lost her hearing. She can’t get hearing aids because her insurance won’t pay for it. Bonnie has fought a lot of side effects from the surgeries as her mom says…

…a soft spot in her skull, paralyzed vocal cords and the inability to speak, useless and atrophied muscles in her neck and shoulder, constant excruciating pain, a paralyzed tongue and the inability to swallow food or liquid without choking, scars not only from the surgery to remove the tumor and the nerves it was wrapped around on her brain stem, but other scars from the tissue transplants they had to use to patch her up again, and another at her throat to let her speak at all. She couldn’t hear out of one ear, and the other was getting worse all the time. They said she would need a feeding tube for the rest of her life.

Throughout all this, Bonnie has remained cheerful and positive. She has never given up and has carried on fighting. I love seeing that kind of spirit in people.

We often forget how lucky we are in the UK to be able to get a referral from a doctor and with that, walk into an audiology centre and be given hearing aids for free. They are upgraded for free. They are repaired for free. If we lose them, they are replaced for free. If you medically qualify for a cochlear implant, that’s free too.

Aren’t we lucky? I know we moan a lot online about the shortcomings of the NHS and the woeful underfunding of the audiology departments, but at least the service is there for us. At least we have got access to services and medical products to improve our hearing.

Hop on over to Vinland Valley Nursery to read Bonnie’s story. The Facebook group for Cherry is named “The Bonnie Cherry Ladies Hearing Aid Society.”





Deaf Awareness Week 2008 : Look at Me

1 05 2008

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May 5th – 11th is Deaf Awareness Week. The theme is LOOK AT ME which happens to tie in nicely with my blog 🙂 The aim is to raise awareness of the different methods of communication which deaf people use to communicate and therefore highlight the different types of deafness. ‘Deafness’ doesn’t just mean sign language users – it also means deafened people, hard of hearing people, deaf-blind people, and those who have tinnitus.

UKCoD have listed some events that are taking place nationwide to raise awareness of hearing loss and give people opportunities such as lip reading class taster sessions, and seeing the inside of your ear using video otoscopy.

A couple of events caught my eye….

* a pair of new Phonak Audeo hearing aids (which are the business) suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss are being given away by The Hearing Care Centre in Colchester, Essex. These are worth £3,500. You’ll need to grab a copy of the Colchester Gazette during Deaf Awareness Week.

* a text messaging service will be launched by Northamptonshire Police Force Communications Centre (FCC) for deaf people in the county. Way to go!

Hopefully this event will get bigger and better each year – that’s up to all of us to make it happen. (Text and logo courtesy of UKCoD)

Did you know, nearly 15% of the population have some degree of deafness. If your organisation has not made adjustments to help deaf and hard of hearing people access your products and services, then you may be excluding a considerable number of people.

For every 10,000 of the population:

TEN will be born profoundly deaf. They probably get little or no benefit from hearing aids and mainly use sign language to communicate.

TWENTY will have become profoundly deaf. They may use sign language and probably also lipread.

ONE HUNDRED will be partially deaf. They may have difficulty following what is being said, even with hearing aids. Mostly they will lipread and some use sign language as well.

SIX HUNDRED will be hard of hearing. They will be able to follow what is being said with a hearing aid and will be able to use a telephone if it has an adjustable volume or has been designed to be used with a hearing aid.

EIGHT HUNDRED will be mildly hard of hearing. They may have difficulty following conversations particularly in large groups or in noisy situations. Some will wear hearing aids and many find lipreading helpful.

• British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language of around 70,000 people in the UK
• About 2 million people in Britain wear hearing aids, maybe another million would benefit from doing so
• Almost all deaf and hard of hearing people rely on lipreading to some extent
• Many combine signs from BSL with English in order to communicate

Here are a few examples of ways to be more accessible to deaf people:-

• Develop the skills of your staff so that they have the knowledge and understanding to communicate effectively
• Overcome the communications barrier by providing deaf awareness training, human aids to communication or the use of appropriate technology
• Make sure your building is deaf-friendly by providing appropriate systems, such as an induction loop
• Plan public areas carefully with deaf visitors in mind and try out your plans with local deaf people to make sure they work
• Use plain English in your literature making it easy to read and understand
• Improve telecommunications by making available textphones, fax, Typetalk, emails, SMS and videophones.

Remember – if a hearing person and a deaf person have trouble communicating, the problem is shared: communication is everybody’s responsibility.





Cool hearing aid designs

11 04 2008

I didn’t know Bernafon make hearing aids, and how cool are these?!


©RPAT

For mild to severe ski-slope hearing loss. The SwissEar reminds me of a Swiss penknife. VERY trendy!

For mild/moderate hearing loss. When developing the Brite hearing aid system, the designers placed emphasis on a redefinition of how hearing aids are perceived in the general public. Thanks to modern styling and colouring, hearing aids can turn into fashionable companions, just as visual aids have already done. The functionality of this hearing aid system is supported by numerous options with respect to colours and surfaces so that the device can be adapted to different user preferences.

For mild to moderate, high frequency hearing loss. The Audéo Personal Communication Assistant from Phonak enhances clarity of speech in loud and noisy surroundings. Two microphones are located in the upper part of the housing, positioned in a horizontal plane next to the ear. A Fidelity Sound Port speaker generates sound in front of the eardrum and produces a clear acoustic signal without closing off the auditory canal. The Audéo is available in modern contemporary colours, which can be exchanged, according to the user’s wishes.

For mild to severe hearing loss. The Hansaton Free Soundmanager offers a new alternative to conventional hearing aid systems. With its innovative design and a small corpus (25 x 8 x 6.6mm), the system differs from existing hearing aids. The system is invisibly placed behind the ear, comfortable and easy in operation. The acoustic link to the ear is solved in a cosmetically inconspicuous way as well. Hansaton Free is also available in different colour versions. With its unique design, the hearing system turns into a lifestyle product, no longer perceived as a burden, but worn with pleasure.

For mild or high frequency hearing loss. The ReSoundAir an elegant appearance, is hardly visible and is understood as a fashionable accessory – just like a mobile phone fitting, a headset or an MP3 player. The ReSoundAir is suitable for young people with hearing problems. It is for people with minor or medium hearing impairments. The design does away with traditional ear fitting elements, without causing annoying feedback even at high amplification – the auditory canal is not blocked. A thin tube leads the amplified signals into the auditory canal, thus avoiding any occlusion effects, which would make the wearers own voice or chewing noises sound as if they had stuck their fingers in their ears whilst speaking or chewing.

At last, decent designs are starting to appear on the market. When are they going to start integrating hearing systems with phones and iPods?





Hearing aids and the future….

28 02 2007

Well I didn’t get my fancy bright coloured hearing aids after all…..I’m still lumbered with the boring beige ones from the NHS. Some of my friends have bright red or blue hearing aids, coloured earmoulds, sparkly earmoulds, earmoulds with football emblems embedded within them. Great stuff. We’re well on the way on what I call our ‘journey’ of accepting hearing loss.

Lots of people aren’t though, and don’t like other people to see they’re wearing hearing aids. Hence the standard boring beige colour and transparent earmoulds. Remember how it used to be embarrassing to wear glasses? Then they became trendy. Now they’re a cool fashion item. Wouldn’t it be great if hearing aids became a fashion item too? What do we have to do to make wearing hearing aids fashionable and cool? I think it’s about changing attitudes to hearing loss and offering products in fashionable colours and designs. But hey, maybe I’m wrong.

Last year there was an exhibition at the V&A in London, demonstrating how hearing products might look in the future. Get an eyeful of these, they are Hear-rings and I want one!